How do you grab the attention of students in a world full of distractions? That’s the question that brought Rice University to Table XI when I worked there. The school had recently launched its Doerr Institute for New Leaders, and needed to raise awareness while connecting students to leadership-building opportunities on campus.
It was our work on a similar project with WomenOnCall that brought The Doerr Institute to Table XI. The Doerr Institute figured we could apply the same thinking to help them engage students — but what they needed went a step further. Where WomenOnCall’s users were seeking volunteer opportunities out, the Doerr team had to find a way to connect with students who might not even know there were leadership opportunities available.
As we dug into user research, we quickly realized we weren’t going to have any luck getting students to look up from their phones. So we took advantage of the problem. Together, we developed a chatbot that would put the opportunities right in students’ hands. User testing helped us shape the chatbot experience until it felt like second nature, not a chore. As students texted in details on their academics and interests, the chatbot fed the data into a backend program, which paired them up with personalized leadership opportunities. All of this was done with Rice’s IT team right by our side, so we knew for sure that the University would be able to continue using and updating the chatbot long after Table XI wrapped up.
I worked on a number of things for the wonderful folks at the Doerr Institute: